Canada buy and sell 2 month road trip - advice needed!

Hey vanlifers!
We, (Caitlin and Lois from London, UK 18 and 19 years old) are planning a trip to and through Canada from May to July next year hopefully travelling from Montreal to Vancouver via the gorgeous Canadian countryside (unless people think it’s easier to do it the other way round). We are new drivers and realise the insurance will be extortionate but are just putting out some feelers.

We would like to buy the van at the start and resell it at the end and have a total budget for our trip of about £8000 which is nearly 14000 Canadian dollars.

Does anyone have any tips/tricks/advice/warnings for our trip or just a general introduction to how van life works, what it entails etc; It would be really appreciated!

We’re both really experienced in hiking and Camping, I speak French and we are both generally very independent if that gives you a sense of our ability to do a trip like this.

Thanks in advance for all your help,


Here in the US the biggest obstacle could be getting a purchased van registered and insured due to no local address and driver’s license, but that might not be the case in Canada - something to look into before departure.

A used minivan in decent shape with the seats removed and a mattress thrown in the back might be your best bet. Anything more and it might bust your budget. Things always cost more than people think.

Good luck, and I hope you enjoy your trip.


Greetings & Welcome!

I would probably rent a cheap minivan, that had seats that fold down into the floor. Put two cots and your other camping gear in the back, and go for it. Camper van rentals are expensive, but if you consider a minivan to be a driveable metal tent, it can be outfitted pretty quickly, cheaply, and easy.

Cheap plastic drawers can add a lot of convenience to a quick & cheap camper van build. Add a piece of wood on top to create counter space. Plastic dishpans and trigger spray bottles can give you sinks & water. Add a camp stove and an ice chest, and you have a fully functioning kitchen. Your kitchen & storage with the plastic drawers and counter top can usually fit right inside the hatchback.

As per your preference, you can add a portable toilet, and outdoor shower. Add a tent, and all the same equipment can be used for tent camping, whichever you prefer. It doesn’t have to be fancy or expensive to be comfortable & convenient.

Keep the costs of your camping equipment as cheap as possible, because the odds are that you’re going to be donating it at the end of your journey, because it won’t be cost effective to try to sell it.

I can envision your complete camping gear setup to be less than $200-$300, and the van rental shouldn’t be much more than $20/day ($600/mo) including insurance, so that should leave you a large budget to enjoy your adventure.

Good Luck & keep us posted!


"The less you have that CAN go wrong, the less you have that WILL go wrong!" ~Murphy


Firstly, don’t assume yet that travel to Canada is going to be possible this May. Canada is likely to lag a little behind the US and the UK on Covid vaccine distribution due to a lack of domestic production capacity. We might be a little slower to re-open our borders to visitors.

Secondly, I am not sure if non-residents can insure or register their vehicles in Canada. There must be loopholes because I have read stories of European travellers buying and selling vehicles. If you do manage to purchase, register and insure a van, my suggestion would be to select a province with low insurance rates. Since you are landing in Montreal, getting a vehicle there would be ideal. Insurance rates in Quebec are low and safety standards are unfortunately lax so you could probably have little issue getting a number plate. That being said, you’ll still want a safe vehicle. Settlements especially north of Lake Superior in northern Ontario to the boundary with Manitoba are small and far apart. Breakdown services are going to be expensive and time-consuming. Public transit is poor to non-existent outside medium-sized cities.

Hiring a vehicle might be expensive. Figure on $40-80 per day, plus another $30 per day insurance and potential damage charges depending on what level of insurance you buy. One-way hires can be expensive and some companies will limit rentals to one month. Try a few international car-hire sites to check for yourself. Google “car rental horror stories Canada” to see how some companies exploit clients. Your ages might also make it difficult to hire a car. Car companies are hesitant to rent to under 25s.

Petrol is not expensive by UK standards. It is 91.5 cents per litre here in western Quebec, but the price is depressed due to Covid and reduced consumption. Expect to pay $1.50 per litre in Quebec and BC, $1.30 from Ontario to Alberta when commerce and travel and wide open. The distance from Montreal to Vancouver is about 5,000 km. At about 11 L/100 km fuel economy for a van, you are looking at consuming at least 550 litres of fuel just for travelling. That doesn’t include time idling in traffic, using the vehicle for heating or cooling and taking side trips for provisions or sight-seeing.

Also consider that depending on where you are, it can still be cold in May. Victoria Day weekend, which contains the third Monday in May is when Canadians start their camping season. We celebrate the birthday of a foreign queen on a day that is not her birthday by going into the bush and pretending that it’s not still cold. Temperatures often go below zero overnight even in the area where I spend most of my time which is the triangle formed by Montreal, Toronto and Ottawa. Personally, I don’t like when overnights go below 10, and I refuse to camp in temps that go below 5. You could get a propane heater, but they do have safety and humidity issues. Electric heaters would tether you to locations where you can plug in.

I am not trying to dissuade you from coming here. I can’t think of a better place to live or visit than this country. I would suggest if possible that you do the trip from June to August. Those extra few weeks make a large difference in weather. Outdoor swimming is possible by the second week of June. Also, if you can, keep a keen eye on changes to pandemic preparations and recovery. You may avoid a cancelled flight or refusal to enter at customs.